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Rachel Nichols vs. Maria Taylor: Diversity Might Not Be Only Issue

by Todd A. Smith

 

 

ESPN television personality Rachel Nichols is not a horrible human being or a blatant racist.


However, leaked footage of her complaining about sports journalist Maria Taylor getting a spot on a television show over her shows she might not be the ally to the Black community that she thinks she is.


Nichols found herself engulfed in controversy when footage leaked of her complaining about Taylor getting to host the NBA playoffs pregame show over her because ESPN was trying to make up for its subpar record when it comes to diversity in front of the camera.


Yahoo Sports reported, “According to the New York Times, Nichols made these comments in July 2020 after ESPN told her that Taylor, who is Black, would be hosting coverage of the NBA Finals instead of her. Nichols sought advice from LeBron James’ longtime advisor Adam Mendelsohn on a call that was actually recorded because Nichols hadn’t turned her camera off.


“During the call, Nichols can be heard saying that she feels like Taylor is only being promoted over her due to ESPN’s long and terrible record on diversity.”


Honestly, the host of ESPN’s “The Jump” should have felt some kind of way when ESPN promoted Taylor over because journalism is a competitive field and Nichols, who is White, has more experience than Taylor.


But to make it seem like Taylor only got the job because of diversity issues is a racist and bigoted assumption and something that Black people must deal with constantly in the workforce.


For Black people only to receive a promotion over a White person because of affirmative action or other diversity efforts implies that all White people are innately better than all Black people in all professions.


Seemingly, Black people cannot get a job without people crying about affirmative action as if affirmative action does not benefit all minorities.


In some people’s eyes, a Black person cannot just be great at their job, and Taylor is tremendous at her job.


In some people’s eyes, a Black person cannot have just outworked their competition.


In some people’s eyes, a Black person cannot be more popular with the consumer or fan base.


And in some people’s eyes, unfortunately, the only thing that justifies a Black person receiving a promotion over their White counterparts, is the need for inclusion.


Those with that mentality have much more bigotry in their hearts than they believe.


What Nichols must understand is that maybe Taylor is better for business than she is at this point in her career.


Maybe, Taylor brings more eyeballs to the television screen.


Although sports have started finding a much bigger audience amongst women, I can only assume that men make up the bulk of the sports fan base.


Furthermore, I can only assume that many casual sports fans watch pregame shows less than diehard sports fans, who might still be majority male.


And in 2021, many males and females are more into visual stimulation than intellectual stimulation, meaning they would rather watch something impressive than hear about something impressive.


That is not to imply that beauty trumps brains because anyone with a brain knows that Taylor and Nichols are brilliant journalists.


However, sex sells and always will.


I constantly hear men of all races jones over how beautiful Taylor is.


If all these men are in love with Taylor’s physical beauty, as a television executive I would definitely give her as much screen time as possible.


And that is not to imply that Nichols is not beautiful too because she obviously is.


In Houston, I would see men stop what they were doing at the gym to watch a traffic reporter named Jennifer Reyna give her report, just so that they could stare at her on screen.


I once met a journalist named Demetria Obilor with over one million Instagram followers.


As a business owner, if I had the chance to put her on one of my television shows I would because her looks, intelligence and talent have allowed her to become a celebrity on social media, which would inevitably help my company.


Even if I had the opportunity to sign a more seasoned journalist, it would make more sense hiring people that fans want to see on television.


And that reality does not just apply to women.


I have met television executives who have told me to my face to hire male television personalities that women would like to look at because even with a male-based panel show (“Regal Roundtable”), many of my viewers are female.


And yes, females like eye candy just as much as males do.


All those realities play a part in decision-making.


Does Nichols have a right to be upset?


Absolutely.


Is what happened to her in the media business any different than what has happened for decades?


Absolutely not.


How many times has a pretty blonde received a job promotion over more qualified people?


When that happens, many executives often have built in excuses on why they chose to go with the lesser qualified candidate over the more qualified candidate.


In journalism, we constantly see people with no talent whatsoever get jobs over seasoned veterans because they look more attractive to the male viewers of that show.


People might complain about the matter in house.


But business is business.


And the journalism business is no different than any other business.


Whatever sells trumps what does not sell, regardless of skill, talent or ability.


But when a person has all the necessary attributes (beauty, brains and talent) rolled into one, please do not assume that all they have going for themself is being a minority.

This article was published on Friday 09 July, 2021.
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